Remembering The Fourth Of July

The Fourth of Julys that I remember most were when I was most isolated from our country– the three years I was in the Far East in the Navy, part of that time on patrol boats in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. You appreciate your country more when you are in a faraway place celebrating its birthday. You look around for other Americans to celebrate with.

I recall friends expressing the same sentiment when they were students living in another country or as Peace Corps volunteers working in Africa or South America. They would gather as Americans on the 4th of July in countries where it was just another day of the year for everyone else.

I expect that my parents most remembered the Fourth of Julys they celebrated during the Second World War. Many of their friends were gone, off fighting the war, and life on the home front was sparse with rationing and hard times a part of every day life. It was a time of adversity. Yet, it made their national “birthday” more special, more memorable.

This year, 2020, is like that. We are not living in a “normal” America. Kids are graduating from high school without a usual commencement and with no prom. Signs appear in front of homes: “Congratulations! A 2020 High School Graduate Lives Here!” COVID 19 and all of its associated distancing and separation requirements have made this a year no one will forget.

This year the Fourth of July will be different — no huge family picnics with everyone hugging each other, no parties where a whole village congregates and, if we have fireworks, crowds will be discouraged from gathering.

It could be a national holiday which we will remember for other reasons. We are fighting a common battle. Our symbol is a mask, our attitude is cautious, our minds are full of worry. Yet, we know, in our hearts, that we are all in this together. We are Americans. We can do this. We are citizens of this world. We are challenged but not defeated. Somehow, we are going to come out of this, the better for it.

In the big picture, our country was built not on hubris but on common sacrifice. This is one of those times. What gatherings there are will be more memorable. What fireworks there are, will be more appreciated. The flag that flies will be more loved.

We may have had “happier” Fourth of Julys. But this one, we shall surely remember. It will become one of those national birthdays we will look back to as one of our most challenging, and one when we appreciated more than ever our common liberties and freedoms. People will say, “I remember where I was on the Fourth of July, 2020!”

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.


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